You’ve got a negative review!
If you’ve worked tirelessly to gain a positive online reputation for your business, finding a negative review on your Google My Business (GMB) pages is your worst nightmare. According to recent studies by BrightLocal, 82% of consumers report that negative reviews make them less likely to use a business. That one bad review could really affect your future sales and engagement.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to deal with negative reviews, and often, you’ll be able to get negative reviewers to change their score rating once you’ve remedied their problem.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at how to respond to negative reviews, how to encourage reviewers to change their original reviews, and what kind of reviews can be removed by Google.
Dealing with a negative review: step-by-step guide
1. Evaluate the Google Review in question
You should aim to evaluate each negative review you receive on a case-by-case basis. For smaller to medium-sized businesses, this shouldn’t be much of an issue, unless something has gone seriously wrong with the business and/or customer service.
Time is of the essence when it comes to evaluating negative reviews, so the faster you can get on the case, the better. You should assign negative reviews to the relevant person in customer service, based on the subject of the review. For example, a review that takes issue with the service quality is different from a complaint about office cleanliness.
Assign negative GMB reviews to the relevant department immediately, so that working towards resolving the issue can begin as quickly as possible.
2. Check that it’s a genuine review
Unfortunately, fake Google Reviews are relatively common, so it’s important that you make sure your rating isn’t being skewed by these kinds of reviews. If, after investigation, you find that a review is indeed fake, you can quickly flag it for removal from GMB. If Google finds that it’s fake, your score won’t be affected.
However, you have to be able to spot fake reviews before this is possible. Most of the time, you’ll be able to spot a fake review almost instantly. Tell-tale signs of fake Google Reviews include:
- No name or personal information left by the reviewer
- The reviewer has left many similar reviews for other businesses
- The review contains false information or mentions products/services that you do not offer
Sometimes, it can be more difficult to spot a fake review than that, or you may be unsure if it is real or fake. In these cases, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.
Start by trying to confirm whether or not the person who has left the negative GMB review is a legitimate customer. Luckily, you can reply anyone who leaves a Google Review directly, which allows you to ask for information that will confirm a review is genuine.
Ask reviewers for proof of purchase, their customer number, or other proof (depending on your type of business) that shows they used your product/service or visited your establishment.
If you receive valid proof in response, you can be assured that it’s a genuine review. If not, further investigation is required. Double check the review they left, and check for any reviews they’ve posted for other businesses. If you discover that they left a string of generic negative reviews from their account, usually over a short period, you can flag it as a fake review.
3. Formulate your response to the negative review
Once you’ve confirmed that it is a legitimate review, you need to craft your response in a timely and appropriate manner. For each negative review you’ve received, aim to have the same person deal with each. This offers the customer consistency. It shows that that they are being treated as a priority by a real person.
You should aim to interact positively with customers during the resolution process, creating personal connections. It’s important to show customers that you and your staff really care about the issues they’ve had with your business and that you are motivated to take measures to improve their experience. Remember to:
- Interact in a personal, friendly, but professional manner
- Treat each customer as an individual, making them feel valued rather than just another number
- Take responsibility for genuine negative experiences and issues
- Apologise and sympathise when appropriate
Resolving concerns in this way increases the chances of your negative reviewer altering their score when the issue has been resolved.
4. Focus on resolving the issue
The main aim throughout this process is resolution. If they feel that their situation hasn’t been, they’re unlikely to change their GMB score for your business. Unfortunately, this will sometimes be the case, and you’re left with a permanent negative review, but you should always aim to resolve and learn with each experience.
You want to leave customers feeling that you couldn’t have done anything more to resolve their issues. For example, if a customer receives a faulty product, they will probably be aware of the fact that this just sometimes happens, and they’ll still have a positive opinion of your business if you get a replacement to them as fast as possible.
If you delay the process, customers are left with the impression that you’re not really bothering to resolve their problem, which can be particularly off-putting if it shouldn’t really have happened at all.
One of the best things you can do to keep customers on-side in the resolution process is to offer them something to make up for the issues or problems that they’ve had.
A discount code, gift, or free delivery on future purchases are simple things that you can grant on a case-by-case basis. These little touches show customers that you value their business and are motivated to make up for any inconveniences. Most appreciate the offers.
5. Ask the customer to change their review
This step is the most important of all when it comes to maintaining a strong GMB reputation. If everything has gone well and both you and the customer feel that any issue has been dealt with effectively, it’s time to ask them to alter their original review.
You might feel unsure about asking them to rethink their review score, so it’s worth testing out some different approaches. You’ll probably find that some things work for some customers, but not others, so see if different tactics work for different kinds of problems.
Refrain from automating this part of the process. If you’ve followed this process, you’ve worked hard to establish personal connections with the customer, so don’t let it go to waste. Customers are much more likely to edit their initial review score when they feel that someone has really gone the distance to respond to their review and take steps to remedy their concerns.
Responding to negative reviews: example
Using the above tips, you might like to formulate your response along the lines of the following example:
Hi [Name], thank you for taking the time to offer a review of our service – we really appreciate all of our customers’ feedback. I’m so sorry to hear that [negative aspect of service] did not meet your expectations. [Offer further comments on understanding the impact that the issue has had on customer].
If you can provide a receipt number, we’d be pleased to discuss your circumstances directly. Please feel free to contact me [Give Name] on this number [xxxxx xxxx] or email [email@example.com], and we can discuss resolving your issue.
Once again, I can only apologise for this problem and will do everything I can to fix it as soon as possible.
All the best,
[Name and Position]
Reviews that can be removed
Some reviews can be removed in accordance with Google’s policies on Prohibited and Restricted Content. Reviews that may be taken down under these policies include those that contain:
- Spam and fake content
- Illegal content
- Offensive content
- Off-topic content
- Content written by a person with a conflict of interests
- Restricted content
- Sexually explicit content
- Terrorist content
- Dangerous & Derogatory Content
What to do when a review violates Google guidelines
If a review falls under any of the categories listed above, you need to flag this as inappropriate content to get it removed by Google. First, double-check that the review definitely violates Google policy. You can find more information about these policies here (https://support.google.com/contributionpolicy/answer/7400114?hl=en-GB).Then follow these steps to complete the process.
To flag a review in your account:
1. Sign in to GMB and choose the review you want to flag. For multiple listings, click ‘Manage Reviews’ on the left toolbar.
For a single listing, open it up and click ‘Reviews’.
2. Once you’ve opened the review you want to flag, click More, and then select ‘Flag as Inappropriate’.
3. Follow the instruction and fill out the data in this form.
There are two other ways to flag inappropriate reviews.
- The first is to flag the review through Google Maps
- The second is to flag a review in Google Search
Detailed instructions on how to report content in this way is available through Google My Business Help, and can be accessed here. This also shows you how to report from different devices, including Computer, Android, and iPad.
What to do if the strategy above fails
If the inappropriate review(s) are not taken down after being flagged to Google after 3 days, the next step is to report the review to Google Small Business Support. Follow these steps to get in touch with Google’s support for businesses:
- Head to support.google.com/business, and click ‘Contact Us‘ in the top right of the browser.
- Click ‘customer reviews and photos‘, then click ‘Review removal issues‘.
- Select ‘contact support‘. Fill out the information and you will then be contacted within 24 hours by Google My Business team.
- When Google support contacts you, you are required to outline why you think the review should be removed – so be prepared! Know which policy it violates, and be ready to explain why a review looks false in your opinion.
- Google support may decide that the review will be escalated to a specialist who will make the final decision about taking down the review.
- All you have to do now is wait to hear back from the member of the support team.
Pro tip: If you have a company Twitter account, tweeting the Google My Business team (@GoogleMyBiz) may put you in touch with someone who can help get the process started. Otherwise, the Google Community support forum is an excellent resource for advice about dealing with negative reviews, and inappropriate review removals.
With the right approach, you can deal effectively with negative reviews, and maintain the good reputation your business has online.
Remember, when dealing with genuine customers, a friendly, personal response that always aims to resolve the customer’s issue is the best approach. In cases where a review doesn’t seem to be genuine, or contains inappropriate content, always flag these to Google with the aim of getting these removed.
Don’t approach this task with a negative mindset. Instead, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your fast and effective customer service. Most customers will understand that sometimes issues arise, and they won’t have a lasting negative opinion of your business if you deal with it effectively and sympathetically.
Still having problems?
Infinite Ace is a Melbourne-based digital agency, and we specialise in helping businesses develop online. Running a business can be hectic, and sometimes you don’t have time to take care of everything by yourself. If you require support for dealing with Google My Business reviews, call us on 03 9043 4444 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we could help.